Is It Wrong For A Woman To Not Want Children?

Hopefully this post won’t make me sound too defensive, because I’m feeling a little defensive. It’s the Today Show’s fault.

Today @ChildfreeOnline tweeted about a woman’s childfree status starting a Facebook argument. The article was interesting, and I agree with the author, Lilit Marcus, that “it shouldn’t be important whether a woman has children or not.” But what really got me about the piece was the link to a video segment about Lilit’s decision to remain childfree from yesterday’s Today Show. The video was titled: Is it wrong for a woman to not want children?

Unfortunately, the video wouldn’t load for me at work, so I worked myself into a tizzy before I got to see it. I know it’s the Today Show’s job to be provocative (good job, Today! I am provoked!), and admittedly, once I was finally able to watch the video, the actual piece was nicely done and never actually discussed that ridiculous title question. But seriously, why ask that question at all?

Please tell me y’all think that is a ridiculous question with only one correct answer right?

Just think about the following two wording changes for this question.

1.) Is it wrong for a woman to not want wine?

Here I go with the childfree food analogies again. I can’t stand wine. Tastes like poison to me. This might make me a bit unusual, and wine aficionados might want to answer “yes” to this question, but everyone knows the correct answer is “no.” Some people like wine, some people don’t. Some wine drinkers prefer white, others prefer red. None of these preferences signal a human character deficiency.

2.) Is it wrong for a man to not want children?

Doesn’t this question sound ridiculous? This is how ridiculous the original Today Show question sounds to me. I realize that there are many men who want children and who are deeply involved in raising their children. That’s fabulous. But it’s more fabulous that no one makes an issue (outside of their families I suppose) about whether or not men want kids. Men with children who didn’t want them are called deadbeats. Men without children who don’t want them are called men.

Why would we even question women who don’t want children?

As it turned out, The Today Show segment was fair. Sarah Brokaw, therapist and author of Fortytude, profiled Lilit Marcus and her decision not to have kids. After the profile, Ann Curry interviewed Sarah and Laura Scott, author of Two is Enough. And all three women did a nice job.

Sarah did start to lose me with all the talk of a “calling,” and I wish she hadn’t felt the need to end with a statement about how women can relate to children in ways other than motherhood.

It reminded me of the blog post on Sarah’s book website that one of the bloggers I read, Sara at Periwinkle Papillon, was kind enough to Tweet me last week.

It was an interesting post, and I’m curious to read Brokaw’s book now. Reading the post sensitized me to Brokaw’s proclivity for the word “calling,” which I came to find pushes my buttons. The focus of the blog post was on television personality, Rachael Ray, and her “different calling in life.”

Lately, it seems I’ve been hearing the “look at the celebrities who have chosen the childfree lifestyle” argument more and more. I appreciate these attempts to argue for the validity of the choice. I also understand why people point to Oprah or Rachael Ray or other celebrities to make the argument. They are well-known, respected, and admired women.

But they are also extraordinary.

So I’m not sure it sets the right tone. Choosing not to have kids is “OK” because Oprah’s not doing it either? Because Rachael Ray had another “calling?”

But I realized after the Today Show segment that the celebrity angle wasn’t really what was bothering me. It was the notion, even coming from someone who seemed sympathetic to the childfree choice, that the decision would leave a hole that needed to be filled with a calling.

I can’t help feeling a little resentment bubble up with the implication that it might be “OK” to choose a childfree lifestyle only if I’m extraordinarily productive or giving or successful. If I replace the calling of motherhood with a similarly deep and meaningful calling. If I find another way to “relate to children.”

That’s just not the way I look at it. I’m a regular person, who happens not to want children. There are a growing number of us, from me to Lilit Marcus to Oprah. No big whoop. I don’t see this as a calling, but rather as a preference, a choice.

I’m not doing what I do in lieu of being a mother. I’m just living my life and trying to have a reasonably enjoyable one.

I’m trying to be a loving wife to Dave; to be a good daughter to my Mom; to take good care of my dog; to be a productive and competent employee; to be a reasonably informed citizen; to be a better friend, sister, and aunt; to express myself through blog posts that hopefully might entertain a couple of people…all  while simultaneously trying to take decent care of myself, be a nice person, and carve out some time to just sit on my front porch and read a damn book already.

I feel like my hands are pretty full with that, so changing the world hasn’t made it onto my to-do list.

What is so wrong with this? Why would it upset anyone that some women might choose not to have children (or choose not to marry, or choose to marry another woman)? Why would anyone care whether or not I relate to children?

Could I be doing more with my life? Sure I could. We all could.

Could we start by dampening down the judgment a little? The expectations? I could certainly stand to do that too.

Let’s all do it. Let’s all care a wee bit less about how other people live their lives, OK?

What do you think? Am I just being too sensitive?

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22 Responses to “Is It Wrong For A Woman To Not Want Children?”

  1. room34
    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    Another great post. If you’re looking for an honest answer to why people think it’s OK to ask this question, I honestly believe it’s resentment. Most parents truly do love their children but I think few will admit that being a parent is really difficult, and sometimes (often?) not fun at all. It’s a huge commitment of time and energy… of YOURSELF… and there’s no real compensation for it. It changes your life forever. In some ways, for the better, yes, but in some other, very important ways, it makes things worse.

    Like I said, most parents probably won’t admit that, or that they had no idea going in how difficult it would be at times. They genuinely love their kids, but they sometimes wish they could go back to the freedom they had before, without having to wait until they’re in their 50s and the kids have grown.

    Spoken from experience? Yes. I do love my kids and I can’t imagine the world without them now. But I also have a new appreciation for the life I had before they were around, and I wish I had done more with it at the time! Seeing other adults my age who don’t have kids, I do sometimes envy their freedom to just go out in the evening, to spend more time on the things that interest then, to be able to just BE, sometimes, instead of wrangling kids at all times.

    • logyexpress
      Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 11:42 am #

      Thanks, Scott. That’s helpful. It makes sense. I’m definitely a little sensitive, particularly about my time. Admittedly I could be a better time manager, and I know my friends with kids have more demands on their time than I do. But I feel like I don’t have enough time to do all the things I’d like to do either. No one does. Sometimes I feel judged (by myself too) that I’m not getting more done with “all this time” I’m supposed to have or that I’m getting thrown into a “who is busier” competition against my will.

  2. curlygeek04
    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    Well, you already know I feel the same! I’ve wrestled with this problem too… the perception that it’s “okay” (said not so sincerely by most) if you’re going to choose not to have children IF you’re an artist, writer, lawyer, celebrity, etc. who is either working 24 hours a day or saving lives on some far flung continent. Why ISN’T it acceptable to just have an 8-9 hour workday and a calm peaceful life? Maybe they think we’re bored and unfulfilled — or maybe we’re just internalizing our own worry that we’re not doing enough with our lives. Probably both. Do people with kids worry that they aren’t doing enough with their lives? I think so – they just don’t have the rest of the world thinking it too.

    • logyexpress
      Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      I know, preaching to the choir, right? I agree it’s probably both too. I get very sensitive to the notion that I have all this excess time on my hands b/c I don’t have kids. I certainly don’t feel like I have loads of free time. I have no idea how people with kids do it.

  3. Kristen Tarajos
    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    No, you are not being too sensitive! We live in a world where everyone is always judging other people. Your choice is the right one for you! How do I know? Because it’s your life! Don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong. This might sound funny coming from me, a stay-at-home mom of four, but life is short, do what makes YOU happy!

    • logyexpress
      Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 11:51 am #

      Thanks, Kristen! It means a lot coming from you! It’s easy to get other people without kids to give me an “Amen!” I can be judgmental about things too, which is something I’m trying to work on, because I hate being judged.

  4. Amy
    Friday, July 29, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    I got angry just hearing that question myself. “Is it wrong…” for the love of… but I guess my feeling on this topic is pretty evident, said Amy from kidfreeliving.com… Here I go trying SO hard in my writing not to spew the obscenities that are my every day life as a woman with a mouth like a sailor and then you post this… :) !^&!^%&*8!!!

    Excellent post!

    • logyexpress
      Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

      Amy, thanks for visiting! I admire the way you keep your sense of humor about it (love that quiz on your blog!), and I aspire to do that too. I don’t want to become a crazy militant childfree person, but that video just set me off!

  5. Amanda
    Friday, July 29, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Great post! And you’re not being too sensitive. My husband and I have not really decided yet whether or not kids are for us. There are so many factors…some of them being that he’s still in grad school, we don’t even know where we’ll be living once he’s done with grad school, babies are expensive…we want to buy a house some day and be able to travel! Being married for nearly 4 years now, we are starting to be questioned about it a lot! By family, friends, coworkers…

    I am a school psychologist. I had a coworker ask me earlier this week how I handle parents who question me as I am not a parent, myself – and that she usually draws upon her own experience as a parent during meetings. I flat out told her that no parent has ever challenged my opinion or questioned whether or not I have children – and as a matter of fact, I have much experience with children in a variety of settings that I can draw upon if I need to. The more I thought about it later, the more annoyed I was that she was implying I needed to have kids to do my job effectively.

    I came across a child-free related article earlier this week, you might be interested: http://www.learnvest.com/living-frugally/current-events/is-child-free-the-way-to-be-100/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=lvdaily&utm_campaign=click-here#top-block

    • logyexpress
      Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Amanda. I have actually been pretty lucky with the questioning. We don’t get nearly as much of it as we could. And it’s tapered off now that I’m past 35. I think people have figured out it’s not happening! School psychology sounds like an interesting field and I don’t see why one would need to be a parent to do it well. Ugh.

      Thanks for the link, I did find it interesting. She had a similar take on the Oprah thing. I might check out her book.

  6. Erin
    Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    I love my kids. And I also said to Alex sadly the other day, “Sometimes I just want to be an adult.” He was puzzled – “And not what?” “A mom every minute.” Enjoy charting your own course!

    • logyexpress
      Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

      Thanks, Erin. I appreciate that more than I can say. Of course, sometimes I think I’m not very adult (see giant bear photo).

  7. margaretalmon
    Saturday, August 13, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How do I describe my life as it is, not as a “lack” or an “absence” but just me, who doesn’t have children, and this is part of who I am. I knew from a young age that I couldn’t comprehend having children. I feel like “me” and I really liked your line about, “I’m not doing what I do in lieu of being a mother. I’m just living my life and trying to have a reasonably enjoyable one.” Yes, I’m an artist, but because I love making art, not because I don’t have kids. I’m happily married. In moments of frustration with cultural pressures, I do wonder if somehow I am not “part of the human family” because I don’t have children–but now that I’m in my 40’s, some of this has eased. Thanks for writing about this.

    • logyexpress
      Sunday, August 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

      Thanks for visiting and for the thoughtful comment! I love hearing from others who feel this way, since it seems to be rare or maybe it isn’t but people aren’t willing to talk about it. Your sharing helps me feel less alone, less removed from the “human family” as you called it.

  8. Doug Parizeau
    Friday, August 19, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    Yes, it’s wrong. You should become pregnant immediately. 😉

    • logyexpress
      Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

      Cute. I’ll get right on that, Doug!

  9. Rebecca Latson Photography
    Saturday, August 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    There is absolutely nothing wrong at all with not wanting kids. I never wanted kids – still don’t. And that’s ok. Being a mother is not a prerequisite for having a fulfilling life. I like my life just as it is. It’s a choice. Just a choice. Everybody is allowed to make them, and they don’t all have to be the same choices as what others make.

    • logyexpress
      Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

      Totally agree. I think there are those that maybe didn’t feel like they had a choice in the matter and that makes me sad. Thanks!

  10. Patty
    Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    This topic pushes my rant/sarcasm buttons in, big time! I always crack about people needing a license to have a dog but why not the same for children?
    Why do people have kids? To further the family name, to keep up with others, to see what it’s like? I’ve personally known an individual who was married three times (divorced three) who somehow “managed” to become pregnant before each shotgun wedding. I also know professional couples who have children that regard their live-in Nanny as more of a parent than the biological pair who see these kids only in between business trips.
    I often ask people if they would do it all over again; some answer honestly, others don’t because they fear the wrath of God reaching out to punish them in some way. While I love my children, and grandkids, in some ways, I wish I had taken more time to explore life with my husband before bringing our three into the world.
    Frankly, if you’re not going to be an involved parent, mentally-armed and ready to deal with the constant challenges of child-rearing, don’t do it! I judge no one for making the choice not to have children but I do criticize those who have kids, do a half-assed job of raising them and leave others to deal with their issues.

    • logyexpress
      Monday, September 19, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

      Thanks, Patty! I was struck by how difficult it was to adopt a dog, and I do remember thinking at the time that obtaining a child (assuming fertility, of course) would be easier. And that’s crazy. While the decision to have kids is essentially a leap of faith, I definitely think it’s worth thinking about carefully.

  11. Kyria
    Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    Hurray! What a great post! You really hit home with this one. I am single, in my 30s and constantly get asked, “when I am going to settle down and have children”. When I tell people, “I don’t know, maybe NEVER”. They laugh and say, “you will change your mind”. Why? Why will I change my mind? I am not sacrificing anything by possibly not settling down or having children. I am enjoying myself, my life, as it is. I think many people (mostly grandmas and family members) don’t want to think of you as being alone later in life. But truly, I am not worried about it. Like you said, it is a choice.

    Found you through Dare to Share!

    • logyexpress
      Monday, September 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

      Thanks, Kyria! It’s good to find like-minded people. I used to get “you’ll change your mind” all the time, but now that I’m over 35, that response has tapered off. I still think most people think I’m nuts, but more of them keep it to themselves now.

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